Trump terror within Middle East studies
Nowhere was the hysteria, panic, and fear-mongering attending Donald Trump’s win in the 2016 presidential election felt more strongly than on college campuses – and Middle East studies academics were no exception. Rather than acknowledging that justified concern over increasing terrorism in the U.S. was a strong factor, they dismissed Trump voters as angry, fearful, ignorant, “Islamophobic” white supremacists.
It was not millions of American voters, but the professors themselves who exhibited bigotry, fear, and anger.
Admitting that the “segment of society” who voted for Trump “frightens me,” Muqtedar Khan, director of the University of Delaware’s Islamic Studies Program, ascribed his win to “myopia” and “cultural insecurity.” Accordingly, he announced that he was “frightened for the future of minorities in this country.” No word on whether Khan is frightened of his own shadow.
Similarly, Rhodes College Islamic studies professor Yasir Qadhi suddenly feared “for the safety of my wife in a hijab, of my children in the streets, of minorities everywhere struggling to understand what happened.” He maintained that white Americans’ racist, irrational fear of “melanin content” led them to support Trump.
Reza Aslan, University of California, Riverside creative writing professor, tweeted hysterically, “Someone please tell me how I tell my kids that the president whose picture will soon be on their classroom wall hates them, wants them gone.”
University of Denver Center for Middle East Studies director Nader Hashemi bemoaned “the new white extremism in middle America,” while accusing Trump of being “so radical and so extreme” that ISIS is “celebrating” his victory.
Meanwhile, University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole claimed that white Trump voters were motivated by “rage,” “anti-immigrant sentiment,” and the loss of “cultural supremacy.” He declared 2016 “the equivalent of a red scare, only now it is a Muslim scare,” and warned of the coming “nativism” and, ludicrously, “the third big wave of the Klu [sic] Klux Klan.” Curiously, Cole had no such concerns when Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton eulogized Robert Byrd, the late Democratic congressman and former “Exalted Cyclops” of the KKK, as her “mentor.”
Omid Safi, director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center, insulted a significant percentage of the electorate by angrily demanding of white evangelical Christians, “When you had to choose between your white privilege and your Jesus, how did you live with yourself putting Jesus on the bottom?” Here’s a rhetorical question: would Safi would have directed such ire at his fellow Muslims, let alone substituted Muhammed for Jesus, were the tables turned?
Hatem Bazian, director of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project at the University of California, Berkeley, encapsulated the arc of anti-populist hysteria in one sentence: “Trump’s victory will stand as America’s Brexit moment where Islamophobia, anti-immigrant discourses, economic dislocation, and nativist sentiments got masterfully mobilized to win an election.”
Columbia University Iranian studies professor Hamid Dabashi, in the subtly titled op-ed “I Refuse to Accept the US Election Results,” blamed Trump’s victory on a “racist, misogynist, ignorant, paranoid, xenophobic, white supremacist America.” He then likened Trump voters to “an angry mob of white supremacist zombies shielding its wild fantasies behind democratic politics.” The flesh-eating white supremacist zombies of television’s The Walking Dead could not be reached for comment.
Such was the reaction of a childish, insulated, arrogant professoriate to the results of a democratic election with which it did not agree. Instead of proffering scholarly or strategic analysis, Middle East studies academics indulged in America-bashing, race-baiting, and histrionics. That is, they exemplified the elite attitudes that doubtless drove many voters to support Trump.
Michael Lumish is an analyst on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the proprietor of Israel Thrives. He holds a Ph.D. in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at Penn State, San Francisco State University, and City College of San Francisco. He co-wrote this article with Cinnamon Stillwell (email@example.com), the West Coast representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.